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June 21, 2012

Valley Tourism Advances Into Separatist Hotbeds


21 June 2012

Bashaarat Masood, Srinagar:

Peace in the Valley has created physical space for tourism to expand. For the first time since the beginning of militancy, the Jammu and Kashmir tourism department has move beyond Dal Lake and Mughal gardens to enter separatist strongholds in Srinagar’s old city.

Four tourism circuits are coming up in the old city, focused on heritage, crafts and old markets. The ‘Srinagar Walks’ project includes ‘Market Walks’ and ‘Monument Walks’, the latter focused on Zainakadal, the old business centre of the city.

The old city was the epicentre of the summer uprisings of 2008 and 2010. “The situation is now getting better,” director, Tourism Talat Parvez, said. “We have planned to set up tourism circuits in the Shehr-e-Khas (old city)”.

“We have three different styles of architecture in Zainakadal,” Parvez said. “On the banks of the Jhelum, we have the shrine of Khankah-e-Moula, which is a wooden structure. Pather Masjid on the other side of the river is made of stone, while the Mazar-e-Salateen nearby is a masterpiece made of bricks.”

Parvez said the tourism department would offer incentives to the local people to set up infrastructure for tourists.

The department is also throwing open a walking circuit from Srinagar’s historic grand mosque in Nowhatta to Rozabal — which many Christians believe is the resting place of Jesus — in Khanyar. Nowhatta has for years been seen as the Valley’s Gaza, with residents taking to the streets and pelting security forces with stones every Friday. Hurriyat moderate Mirwaiz Umar Farooq delivers his Friday sermons from the grand mosque.

The tourism department is also bringing the copper and spice markets of Zainakadal on Srinagar’s tourist map. “The aim is to link Kashmir’s craft with tourism,” Parvez said. “This will help both craft and tourism.”

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah recently announced that a two-km stretch from Nawakadal to Chattabal in the old city would be developed as a heritage craft pedestrian trail on the pattern of New York. The trail will have craft bazaars, retail outlets, kiosks, production centres and other facilities, he said.